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To Hell or Barbados (The Expanded Edition)

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Album Review

In the early 21st century, it seems like the number of true storytellers in the realm of roots rock is rapidly diminishing. But then along comes a gentleman like Damien Dempsey, who appears poised to save the day, as evidenced by his 2007 release, To Hell or Barbados. The Irish singer/songwriter/guitarist has received acclaim by such fellow renowned artists as Shane MacGowan and Sinéad O'Connor, and with good reason — Dempsey's tunes hark back to a day when folk-based musicians were more concerned with penning their next tell-all tale of life, rather than merely penning songs in hope of selling to an advertiser. Take a tune like "How Strange," for instance — while holding no surprises in band instrumentation, it's Dempsey's vocals that supply the song's muscle. That said, Dempsey isn't looking to get pigeonholed into a single sound/approach, as evidenced by the bare-bones "Chase the Light," the electronic-tinged album-closing "The City," and "Serious," on which Dempsey assumes the role of an actor (as dialogue is featured rather than traditional singing). To Hell or Barbados is folk and roots rock with substance, with the sound of Ireland mixed in for good measure. A most intriguing cocktail.


Born: 1975 in Donaghmede, Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

Born into poverty-stricken Dublin in the mid-'70s, Damien Dempsey has a musical outlook profoundly shaped by the traditional working-class music he was exposed to as a child, as well as other artists who share his egalitarian social outlook: Bob Marley, Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, Shane MacGowan, and Elvis Presley. Since emerging as an exciting young talent in the mid-'90s, Dempsey steadily learned to control his wide variety of influences (which also included hip-hop and electronic music) while crafting...
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To Hell or Barbados (The Expanded Edition), Damien Dempsey
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